Pub Cocktail Anyone?
I must confess that I have occasionally been guilty of a little cocktail snobbery. When you enjoy something as much as I enjoy cocktails, it can be all too easy to lose sight of what is most important and get a little carried away with the intricacies of searching for ‘perfection’. A recent trip to the Stinging Nettle pub in Hammersmith reminded me that there is still joy to be had outside of the traditional cocktail bar.
The Stinging Nettle is an unusual watering hole in that not only does it have a cocktail list (something of a rarity in pubs anyway), but being a Young’s pub, means it is owned by a rather large corporation that tends to steer clear of such frivolities. In fact, I am told that this is the only Young’s-run pub that has a cocktail menu in the whole country. Upon hearing about such a venue, I was immediately sceptical about what we might find and I must admit to very nearly reversing right back out of the door when I saw the menu. Of course this being a traditional Young’s boozer, this cocktail menu is cram-packed with such classics as Sex on the Beach, and the Harvey Wallbanger; not my usual tipple.
The offer of freshly cooked chips convinced me to stay to order a pint of Kirin Ichiban and peruse the menu a little longer. A more detailed read revealed a cocktail worthy of ordering, the Bramble. Still sceptical, I watched as the bartender mixed my drink and it was here that something funny started to happen. It quickly became apparent that this guy was taking really quite a lot of care in creating my drink. He measured, shook, tasted, poured and garnished my drink with a level of care and attention that honestly took me by surprise.
Ok, I thought, lets not get ahead of ourselves, just because he is taking his time doesn’t mean it will be drinkable. But it was! Now admittedly the Bramble is not the most difficult drink to create, but that doesn’t detract from it being tasty. The attention to detail didn’t end there, the tender waited patiently for me to try my drink and with wide eyes asked what I thought. Hold on a minute, I thought, this guy really gives a monkeys. Conversation followed and I learnt that the chaps name was Sven and, whilst he had never trained in cocktails formally, he was genuinely interested and the only way he could convince Young’s to put a cocktail menu on in the pub, was to fill it with disco drinks!
I asked what else he could make off menu and he told me about a variation on the Long Island Iced Tea he liked to make called the Parisian Iced Tea. I gave it a go and discovered that the use of absinthe in an otherwise relatively standard Long Island Iced Tea was a rather tasty addition. I realised that this pub had rather captured my imagination and I was actually having an enjoyable night! Not what I expected. The menu was still terrible, but it sort of hit the spot nonetheless. I realised that sometimes, just sometimes, the cocktail snobbery needs to be left at the door. After all, everyone has a guilty pleasure, right?